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CHAPTER 3

Federalism

0Chapter Outline with Keyed-in Resources0


I0. Governmental structure0

A0. Introduction0

10. Federalism: a political system with local government units, as well as a national government, that can make final decisions regarding some governmental activities and whose existence is protected

a0) Local governments are able to make decisions on at least some matters without regard to the preferences of the national government

b0) Examples of federal governments: United States, Canada, India, Germany, Switzerland, Australia

20. Unitary government:0

a0) All local governments are subservient to the national government

b0) Local governments can be altered or abolished by the national government

c0) Local governments have no final authority over any significant government activities

d0) Examples of unitary governments: France, Britain, Italy, Sweden

30. Special protection of subnational governments in federal system due to:0

a0) Constitution of country

b0) Habits, preferences, and dispositions of citizens

c0) Distribution of political power in society

40. National government largely does not govern individuals directly, but gets states to do so in keeping with national policy

B0. Federalism: Good or Bad?0

10. Negative views: federalism blocks progress and protects powerful local interests0

a0) Laski: the states are “parasitic and poisonous”

b0) Riker: federalism facilitated the perpetuation of racism

20. Positive view―00Elazar: federalism contributes to governmental strength, political flexibility, and fosters individual liberty

30. Federalism has good and bad effects0

a0) Different political groups with different political purposes come to power in different places

b0) Federalist No. 10: small political units are more likely to be dominated by single political faction―which allows all relevant interests to be heard, somewhere

C0. Increased political activity0

10. Most obvious effect of federalism: it facilitates political mobilization

20. Federalism decentralizes authority, lowering the cost of political organization at the local level

II0. The Founding0

A0. A bold, new plan to protect personal liberty0

10. Founders believed that neither national nor state government would have authority over the other since power comes from the people, who shift their support to keep the two in balance.

20. New plan had no historical precedent

30. Tenth Amendment was added as an afterthought to clarify the limits of the national government’s power

40. Tenth Amendment has had limited applicability, but has recently been used by the Supreme Court to give new life to state sovereignty

B0. Elastic language in Article I: necessary and proper clause0

10. Precise definitions of powers are politically impossible due to competing interests, e.g., commerce

20. Hamilton’s view: national supremacy since the Constitution was the supreme law of the land

30. Jefferson’s view: states’ rights with the people as ultimate sovereign; the national government was likely to be the principal threat to individuals’ liberties

III0. The debate on the meaning of federalism (THEME A: WHO GOVERNS WHAT? FEDERALISM AND CONSTITUTIONAL LAW)0

A0. The Supreme Court speaks0

10. Hamiltonian position espoused by Chief Justice John Marshall

20. McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) settled two questions0

a0) Could Congress charter a national bank? Yes, even though this power is not explicitly in the Constitution because of the “necessary and proper” (elastic) clause.

b0) Could states tax such a federal bank? No, because national powers were supreme and therefore immune to state challenge.

30. Later battles related to federal taxes on state and local bond interest

B0. “Nullification”: states had the right to declare null and void a federal law that they believed violated the Constitution0

10. Authors: James Madison (Virginia Resolutions), Thomas Jefferson (Tennessee Resolutions), and John Calhoun

20. Question settled by the civil war: the federal union was indissoluble and states cannot nullify federal law; position was later confirmed by the Supreme Court

C0. Dual federalism: both national and state governments are supreme in their own spheres, which should be kept separate0

10. Example: interstate vs. intrastate commerce0

a0) Early product-based distinctions were unsatisfactory

b0) Still, the Supreme Court does seek some distinction between what is national and what is local, though it is not entirely consistent in its support of state sovereignty

20. Doctrine of dual federalism still is argued, however―and sometimes successfully

D0. State sovereignty0

10. Supreme Court has strengthened states’ rights in several recent cases0

a0) U.S. v. Lopez (1995), guns in schools

b0) U.S. v. Morrison (2000), overturned Violence Against Women Act of 1994, stating that attacks against women do not substantially affect interstate commerce

c0) Printz v. U.S. (1997), background checks on gun purchasers

20. Supreme Court has also strengthened the Eleventh Amendment, protecting states from suits by citizens of other states or foreign nations0

a0) Alden v. Maine (1999), compliance with federal fair labor laws

b0) Federal Maritime Commission v. South Carolina Ports Authority (2002), states did not agree to become mere appendages of national government

30. But not all recent decisions have supported state sovereignty

40. State can do what is not prohibited by the Constitution or preempted by federal policy, and that is consistent with its own constitution0

a0) Police power

b0) State governments also responsible for public education, law enforcement and criminal justice, health and hospitals, roads and highways, public welfare, and use of public lands

50. States’ constitutions may provide for direct democracy

a0) State constitutions more detailed about many matters, and thus view of government is more expansive

b0) Initiative

c0) Referendum

d0) Recall

60. Protections for the states in the Constitution0

a0) No state can be divided without its consent.

b0) Two Senators for every state

c0) Every state assured of a republican form of government

d0) Powers not granted to Congress are reserved to the states

70. Cities, towns, and counties have no such protections.0

a0) They exist at the pleasure of the state government, so there is no struggle over sovereignty (Dillon’s Rule)

b0) See the Politically Speaking box, The Terms of Local Governance

IV0. Federal-state relations (THEME B: WHO GOVERNS NOW? THE CONTEMPORARY POLITICS OF FEDERALISM)0

A0. What Washington legally may do is not the same as what politics may require

B0. Grants-in-aid0

10. Grants show how political realities modify legal authority

20. Began before Constitution with land and cash grants to states

30. Dramatically increased in scope in twentieth century

40. Prevailing constitutional interpretation until late 1930s was that the federal government could not spend money for purposes not authorized by the Constitution—grants were a way around this

50. Grants were attractive to state officials for various reasons.0

a0) Federal budget surpluses (nineteenth and early twentieth centuries)

b0) Federal income tax increased revenues

c0) Federal control of money supply

d0) Appeared as “free” money for state officials, who did not have to be responsible for federal taxation

60. Required broad congressional coalitions with wide dispersion of funds, because every state had an incentive to seek grant money (example: post-9/11 “fair-share” security funding formulas)

C0. Meeting national needs0

10. 1960s shift in grants-in-aid0

a0) From what states demanded…

b0) …To what federal officials considered important as national needs

c0) Meanwhile, state and local governments had become dependent on federal funds

d0) Washington’s grants to state and local governments has reached new highs since 2000

D0. The intergovernmental lobby0

10. Hundreds of state and local officials lobby in Washington

20. The Big 7

a0) U.S. Conference of Mayors

b0) National Governors Association

c0) National Association of Counties

d0) National League of Cities

e0) Council of State Governments

f0) International City/County Management Association

g0) National Conference of State Legislatures

30. Purpose: to get more federal money with fewer strings

40. Since1980, their success has been more checkered

E0. Categorical grants versus revenue sharing0

10. Categorical grants are for specific purposes defined by federal law; they often require local matching funds

20. Block grants (sometimes called special revenue sharing or broad-based aid) were devoted to general purposes with few restrictions—states preferred block to categorical grants

30. Revenue sharing (sometimes called general revenue sharing) requires no matching funds and could be spent on almost any governmental purpose0

a0) Distributed by statistical formula

b0) Ended in 1986, after fourteen years

40. Neither block grants nor revenue sharing achieved the goal of giving the states more freedom in spending0

a0) Did not grow as fast as categorical grants

b0) Number of strings increased, even on these programs

50. New block grant programs were created for low-income housing, pre-school education and other programs from 2001-2003; these programs were cut or frozen by 2004 due to drops in state government revenues

60. Block grants grew more slowly than categorical grants because of the differences between the political coalitions that supported each0

a0) Federal officials, liberal interest groups, organized labor tend to distrust state government; categorical grants give the national government more power

b0) No single interest group has a vital stake in multipurpose block grants, revenue sharing

c0) Categorical grants are matters of life or death for various state agencies

d0) Supervising committees in Congress favored growth of categorical grants

e0) Revenue sharing was wasteful because it was so widely distributed that it did not reach those with greater need in sufficient amounts

F0. Rivalry among the states0

10. Intense debate regarding whether the federal government is helping some regions at the expense of others

20. Snowbelt (Frostbelt) versus Sunbelt states: debate focuses on allocation formulas written into federal laws

30. Difficulty telling where funds are actually spent and their effect, though

40. With numerous grants distributed on the basis of population, the census takes on monumental importance

V0. Federal aid and federal control

A0. Federal controls on state governmental activities

10. Conditions of aid: tells state governments what they must do if they wish to receive grant money; traditional control

20. Mandates: tells state governments what they must do

B0. Mandates0

10. Mandates: federal rules that states or localities must obey, generally have little or nothing to do with federal aid 0

a0) Civil rights

b0) Environmental protection

20. May be difficult to implement and/or be costly

30. Mandates may also make it difficult for state/local governments to raise revenues, borrow funds, and privatize public functions; some may expose them to financial liability

40. Controversial mandates may result from court decisions (example, state prisons, school desegregation plans)

C0. Conditions of aid0

10. Attached to grants

20. Conditions range from specific (apply to particular programs) to general (cover all or most grants)

30. Divergent views of states and federal government on costs and benefits of these conditions; each side attempts to bargain to pass on most of the cost to the other sides

40. President Reagan attempted to cut back both federal money and conditions of aid; after a bump in the early 1990s, this was continued in the mid-1990s 0

VI0. A devolution revolution? Focus on the 104th Congress (1995–1996)0

A0. Devolution initiatives returned program management to the states, with some federal guidelines, but no guarantee of federal support

B0. Block grants for entitlements0

10. AFDC and Medicaid had operated as entitlements—federal funds a fixed proportion of state spending on these programs

20. Republicans in 104th Congress proposed making these and other programs block grants

30. AFDC did actually become a block grant

40. Devolution became part of the national political agenda

50. Some evidence that devolution in welfare programs continued from states to localities, localities to non-profit and private organizations

C0. What’s driving devolution?0

10. Devolution proponents harbor a deep-seated ideological mistrust of federal government and believe that state governments were more responsive to the people

20. Deficit politics encouraged devolution0

a0) Major cuts sought in entitlement spending

b0) In return, governors were given more power and flexibility to implement program

30. Devolution supported by public opinion—though strength of support uncertain

40. See the What Would You Do? exercise, Abortion Funding.

VII0. 0Congress and Federalism—politics remains local0



10. Congress members represent conflicting constituencies—won’t always agree with governors and mayors

20. Parties once linked legislators to local groups—their erosion increases political competition.


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